Robert Sterling Arnold

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Robert Sterling Arnold (1905 – 2003)
Inducted in 2005

Born January 26, 1905 in Coleman, TX, Robert S. Arnold spent his entire life promoting the expansion of Southern Gospel Music.

At the age of 16, he attended music normals sponsored by the Central Music Company of Little Rock AR, and studied under legendary figures like JH Carr, Will M Ramsey, and John A McClung.  He also studied with William W Combs, the noted music instructor for both the Vaughan Music Company and the Stamps-Baxter Music Company.  At the age of 18, Robert began singing tenor in various quartets.  Among his singing jobs in the late 1920s and early 1930s were stints with the Carr Quartet, the Central Quartet and the JC Penny-sponsored Overall Quartet, a group that sported overalls, complete with white shirt and black bow tie, in each of their concerts.

Robert Arnold’s major contribution to gospel music was in perpetuating shape-note singing schools and publishing annual convention books.  He helped found the National Music Company of Coleman, TX in 1937 and continued until his death.  During the 1940s and 1950s, he managed and sang as a member of the National Quartet.  All the while, he continued to teach local singing schools as well.  Robert S. Arnold taught at least one singing school in each year since 1924 at the age of 19 until his death at the age of 98.

He is also a noted songwriter of more than 400 songs, including the well-known song, “No Tears in Heaven.”

Anna Gordon Davis

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Anna Gordon Davis (1917 – 2004)
Inducted in 2005

Anna was an original member of the legendary Chuck Wagon Gang.  Born Effie Carter on February 15, 1917, in Noel, MO, she learned to sing as a child from the example of her parents, David and Carrie Carter.

In 1935, she contracted pneumonia and it was this situation and the need for medicine that prompted her father to take his oldest son Ernest and his oldest daughter Lola to audition for a spot on Lubbock, TX, KFYO.  After recovering, Effie also joined the group and, as the Carter Quartet, they sang at the station daily for the next year.  In 1936, the four Carters auditioned and received a spot of Ft Worth’s powerful WBAP radio and, for the next 15 years, sang on a daily program sponsored by Bewley Flour Mills under the name the Chuck Wagon Gang.

The names of the individual group members also changed and Effie became known as Anna.  As a member of the Chuck Wagon Gang, Anna’s smooth alto voice characterized one of the best-known groups in Southern Gospel Music history.

In 1936, the group began recording for Columbia Records and, for the next four decades, became one of the company’s best-selling artists.  In the early 1950s, the Chuck Wagon Gang began appearing in concerts on Wally Fowler’s all-night sings.

Anna continued to sing with the group through the 1960s even after the death of her first husband who was the group’s guitarist, Howard Gordon.  In 1969, she married former Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis and soon curtailed her activities with the Chuck Wagon Gang in order to sing as part of the Jimmie Davis Trio.  Together, the Davises became true ambassadors for Southern Gospel Music, singing in concerts and always supporting and promoting the good news of Jesus Christ in song.

Elmo Fagg

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Elmo Fagg (1919 – 1981)
Inducted in 2005

Born in Alcoa, TN, on June 28, 1919, Elmo fell in love with Southern Gospel at an early age.

Elmo served in the Army Air Force during WWII.  After his discharge in the fall of 1945, he took a job with the Lone Star Quartet in Raleigh, NC, singing on WPTF-AM radio.  The following year, he and Jack Taylor left the quartet to join the Stamps Quartet owned, Blue Ridge Quartet. Elmo became the group’s manager as well as its lead singer – positions he would hold for the next three decades.

The Blue Ridge became an independent quartet in 1948 and moved to Spartanburg, SC singing on WSPA-AM radio.  In 1951, WSPA added television to the area and the Blue Ridge Quartet became one of the first groups to appear regularly over the new medium.  Because of the television exposure and Elmo’s leadership, the Blue Ridge Quartet name spread far and wide.  The Blue Ridge also became part owners of the Gospel Singing Caravan which was one of the pioneering Southern Gospel syndicated television programs of the 1960s.  Elmo was particularly known for directing the choir numbers on the Caravan.  In 1965, the group formed its own television program, Music for All America, appearing regularly on 30-40 stations.

Not a flashy performer, Elmo Fagg is remembered as “a pure, simple, right-on-pitch lead singer.”  His tireless promotions and leadership kept the Blue Ridge Quartet at the top of the Southern Gospel industry.

Gloria Lee Sickal Gaither

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Gloria Lee Sickal Gaither (1942 – )
Inducted in 2005

Gloria, raised in a pastor’s home, dreamed of serving as a foreign missionary. Perhaps not as originally thought, her gifts of songwriting, singing, and speaking ultimately gave her the opportunity to tour much of the world and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

She and husband Bill entered into a partnership with Gloria as co-author of more than 600 Gospel songs.  Gloria contributed the lyrics to classics like “Because He Lives,” “Something About that Name,” and “The King is Coming.” Twenty of their songs have received Dove Awards.  In 2000, to recognize their contribution to the world of Gospel Music, she and Bill received the prestigious Songwriters of the Century Award from ASCAP.

As a member of the successful Bill Gaither Trio, Gloria recorded more than sixty albums, has written a dozen musicals, including Alleluia! A Praise Gathering for Believers, His Love . . Reaching, and Then Came the Morning, written scripts for the Homecoming Video Series, and has authored more than twenty books on Christian themes.

Rosa Nell Speer Powell

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Rosa Nell Speer Powell (September 21, 1922 - May 16, 2017)
Inducted in 2005

The second child of GT and Lena Speer, Rosa Nell was singing from as far back as she could remember.  By the 1920s, the family was going to singing schools and concerts in their native Alabama.

The Speer kids made the family Southern Gospel legends.  Rosa Nell played a particularly important part in that early group’s success as concerts, then radio and recordings, became part of their regular schedule.  She became the primary pianist and organist and could anchor the group’s sound with her strong soprano voice or switch off and sing alto in any number of Dad Speer’s arrangements.

In 1941, the group became a staple on radio, first on WSFA in Montgomery, AL, and later on a series of radio (and later television) stations in Tennessee.

After her marriage in 1948, Rosa Nell retired from touring with the family though she continued to make periodic appearances with the family at nearby concerts.  Later, she also worked behind the scenes at the Speer Music Company. Appearing on the Gaither Homecoming series, Rosa Nell was once again pressed before the public’s view.

Joseph L. “Smilin’ Joe” Roper

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Joseph L. “Smilin’ Joe” Roper (1919 – 1990)
Inducted in 2005

Born July 10, 1919 near Hayden, AL, Joe Roper became one of the most influential pianists in Southern Gospel history.

As a boy, he attended his father’s singing schools and then followed that education by attending a series of Stamps-Baxter singing schools as a teenager.  In 1929, he began playing piano for the Hayden Quartet, a local group led by his father.  In 1935, Joe began playing for the Happy Hitters Quartet our of Birmingham, AL.  Joe began gaining attention and, over the next 30 years, he served some of the most impressive quartets in the industry: VO Stamps Quartet (1938-39), Blackwood Brothers Quartet (1939 – 40, serving as the group’s first piano player), Stamps-Baxter Melody Boys (1940-60), Prophets (1960-61), and the Stamps Quartet (1962-64).  He also served in the early 1960s as music editor the Stamps Quartet and Vaughan Music companies.

Known as “Smilin Joe” Roper, he made such an impact on the industry that, in time, the Stamps-Baxter Melody Boys became popularly known as Joe Roper and The Melody Boys.  In addition, he served as music teacher at numerous singing schools across the South and taught many the magic of his piano artistry.  Among his early students was Country Music legend, Floyd Cramer.

Roper also composed and arranged songs that were published by Stamps-Baxter Music, the Faith Music Company, the Vaughan Music Company, and the Stamps Quartet Music Company.  Among his compositions were, “I Like the Old Time Way,” “Riding on the Glory Train,” “What Marvelous Love,” and “Sinner’s Plea.”

Edward Lamar “Bill” Shaw

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Edward Lamar “Bill” Shaw (1924 – )
Inducted in 2005

Bill was born June 22, 1924 in Abbeville, SC.  His rise to the pinnacle of success in Southern Gospel Music came perhaps more rapidly than any other Gospel Music artist ever.  He had only sung professionally for a little over a year when he joined the Blackwood Brothers in 1952.

Bill sang with the Harmonights in 1950, the Southland Quartet and the All-American Quartet in 1951 and only six months later, he was singing tenor with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet.  During his 21-year tenure with the Blackwood Brothers, his smooth tenor voice was featured on many of the group’s biggest songs and today he is remembered as one of Southern Gospel’s all-time greatest tenors.

He also penned many songs the group performed, including “I’m Thankful, That’s All,” and “The Way is the Way of the Cross.”  Bill retired from professional singing in October of 1973.

Erman Clark Slater

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Erman Clark Slater (1903 – 1951)
Inducted in 2005

Few individuals gave more to Southern Gospel than Erman Slater.  Born February 2, 1903, in Dekalb County, AL, Erman grew up singing in church. In 1924, Erman married into a singing family and was introduced to Southern Gospel Music. Soon he found himself singing in the Jolley Family Quartet.

He attended a number of local quartets.  In 1937, he helped organize the Sand Mountain Quartet, singing on WJBY in Gadsen AL.  Over the next few years, Erman took his beautiful baritone voice to sing in his first professional quartet – the Stamps Dixie Four in Memphis, TN and the Lone Star Quartet in Raleigh, NC.

In 1946, Slater took a job singing lead for Fred C Maples and the Harmoneers.  In 1949, Erman took over the baritone position for the Rangers Quartet, moving with the group from North Carolina to Shreveport, LA to sing on KWKH and also on the popular Louisiana Hayride.

On January 12, 1951, while on tour in East Texas, Slater was killed in a car accident that also seriously injured the Ranger’s bass singer, Arnold Hyles.  Only 47 years old, Slater was recognized at the time as one of the finest voices in the industry – a true quartet man and a lover of Southern Gospel Music.

Jack Toney

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Jack Toney (1933 – 2004)
Inducted in 2005

Jack Toney is considered as having perhaps the finest lead singing voice ever in professional Southern Gospel Music. He was also an accomplished musician and could play piano, banjo, mandolin, and various guitars.

He began his career with John Hull and the Joymakers and performed with groups such as the Prophets, Dixie Echoes, Searchers, Masters V, and the Stamps Quartet. However, his greatest impact in gospel music came from his career with the Statesmen Quartet as he brought class and dignity to the stage, especially as he sang “Beyond the Gates”. Jack is also known as a prolific Gospel songwriter having penned over 600 songs like “Some Dawning”, “Jesus is Coming for Me”, and “I Will Rise Up From My Grave.”

The last recording Jack made was entitled “The Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Quartet Sings Mosie Lister Favorites,” and features Jack’s melodious voice. Jack Toney’s awesome singing voice and his love for God and people remain his legacy.

Ed F. “Eddie” Wallace

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Ed F. “Eddie” Wallace (1924 – )
Inducted in 2005

Since 1943, Eddie spent his entire career performing both as a singer and a piano player for the Sunshine Boys. The versatility of this group led to Ed being involved in many ‘firsts’ in Gospel Music – radio and television programs with National Sponsorships, performing USO shows, holding war bond rallies, starring in western movies, and headlining on the Nevada circuit.

For several years the Sunshine Boys performed as two different groups on radio station WAGA. Eddie would switch from piano for the Sunshine Boys to the accordion for The Light Crust Dough Boys to perform Western swing music.

As Decca artists, the Sunshine Boys sang vocals on Red Foley’s hit “Peace In the Valley,” one of the biggest selling recordings in Gospel Music history.

Ed was offered positions with numerous top groups, but chose to spend his complete career with his first choice…The Sunshine Boys. Ed set the standard as both a singer and piano player proving one must remember words, parts, harmony, balance, blend, phrasing, rhythm, tempo and introductions – a true musician.

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